It almost seemed Judge James C. Van Sicklen was destined for greatness.
Born to one of the pioneer families of Brooklyn, he was the third and youngest son of Ditmars Van Sicklen, who was a major farmer in the New Lots and Flatlands sections, where Van Sicklen Avenue bears his name. His mother, Cornelia, was a descendant from the Remsen family. Van Sicklen’s two brothers, John and Abraham, who were members of the Dutch Reformed Church.
After a distinguished career as a lawyer, Van Sicklen entered politics and eventually rose to the position of justice of the state Supreme Court on the Republican ticket.
His wealth enabled him to build one of the finest homes in Jamaica atop a hill on Highland Avenue, which looks down to Hillside Avenue and had a commanding view in the early 20th century before apartment buildings marred the landscape.
His house was so famous that postcards featuring it sold for a penny in the days before everyone had a telephone as a means of contacting someone.
Van Sicklen’s wife, the former Lena Childs, had a live-in Austrian servant named Annie Stumf and a Danish chauffeur named Hanson. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, the house was valued at $125,000.
However, all of that brought only tempered happiness to the couple, as their only son, Robert Ditmars Van Sicklen, died in an accident in 1928 at age 23. Judge Van Sicklen passed away at the age of 94 in November 1963. His wife died five years later.
Queens County, where the city has a poor record of landmarking and preserving buildings, allowed the Van Sicklen mansion to be demolished and an apartment building stands on the site today.